Ever since the sage-eating wizard I call Peter realized that Great Harvest uses enough salt to preserve their loaves in perpetuity, making a loaf of delicious bread has become a laughing matter. I just whipped up a loaf without even batting an eye. I guess this weblog has served its purpose, so I don't know what I'm going to do after this last post. Maybe continue to refine my breadmaking process? Include other recipes, interspersed among my soccer rants? Who knows? For now, here is a basic list of what I've learned about breadmaking:
1) Do not use a recipe; the necessary ingredients are flour, water, yeast, some sort of sugar, salt, and oil. Just experiment with amounts. And bake somewhere between 350F and 400F.
2) If the dough is sticky, add more flour and knead longer. If the dough is stiff, add more water and knead longer. Kneading longer is usually the preferred course of action (although it is supposedly possible to overknead).
3) Bread is usually thought of as flour, but this is wrong. The flour is a base into which you mix salt and sugar. All the flavor of bread comes from salt, and the complexity in a bread's flavor comes from whatever type of sugar is used. Adding seeds and stuff like that is also good, but you really must use salt. A lot of salt. Bread should be salty.
4) I haven't figured out how to make a sourdough yet. Maybe with warmer weather coming, and a warmer kitchen, I can change that, but I have a feeling I'm going to just opt out and make tortillas for the next few months.
5) Salt really is what makes bread worth eating. Don't worry about using too much. It's hard to oversalt a loaf of bread. It's the easiest thing I've ever done to undersalt.
6) Knead the loaf for a long time, at least ten minutes, and make sure that there's plenty of salt in the dough. Taste the dough to check. You can always knead more salt in if there's lacking.
So, those are my six tips. Maybe I'll codify them into something resembling the Rule of St. Benedict. Or maybe I'll just make tortillas.